How to Be a More Confident Writer
Writers, like all artists, put their creations out into the world and wait to see how the work will be accepted — or not.
If it is, our self-confidence as writers is boosted. It’s proof that we know what we’re doing. If it isn’t accepted, it can swallow us in self-doubt. Maybe we should pack it in and do something else.
Whether our work is accepted or panned doesn’t matter — if we believe in ourselves and our abilities. Sure, it stings when we’re rejected, but letting this stop us or allowing it to undermine our confidence as writers is the fast path to failure.
I’m a Good Writer
It’s easy to believe this when all is going well. Your creativity is high, your work is being accepted and praised, all is well with the world. However, it may be harder to hang onto that belief when things aren’t so rosy.
What do we do when doubt slithers in?
Maybe I’m not as good as I think I am.
What, in your opinion, makes a writer good? You need a definition of what this means for you, personally.
For some people, it means getting paid for their work ,and while that may be the traditional meaning for “professional writer,” it has nothing to with “good writer” because it relies on other people’s opinions. It’s someone else’s perception of your writing.
Self-confidence as a writer comes from the inside. It’s a belief that becomes part of your identity. When you detach your writing from other people’s opinions, you are able to boost your self-confidence and keep it high.
For me, being a good writer means having a body of work that I’m proud of. Yeah, I also like getting paid, but I was a good writer long before anyone paid me.
Maybe I need to improve.
No matter how good I am or you are, we always can be better.
It’s an ongoing process.
We have innate talents that we develop until we become skillful. Some of us continue to hone our skills because we aim for mastery. Mastery, however, isn’t something you attain and then settle for. Mastery requires ongoing effort to continually excel.
While Yo-Yo Ma isn’t playing in concert halls these days, he’s playing on social media because he need needs regular practice to maintain mastery of his art.
The willingness to improve and making the effort to improve are the mark of a good writer. Every time we learn a new skill, discover how to refine our work, or gain a trick we didn’t know, we become better writers.
I wrote my first article when I was 12. I was a good writer then; I’m a better writer.
Good writers become better writers.
The better you get, the more confidence you have.
Stop Doubting Yourself
Becoming aware of exactly what you are saying to yourself about yourself can help you understand why you react the way you do to events and people in your life. It can also give you a handle on controlling your moods, repeating your successes and short-circuiting your shortcomings.
Self-talk plays a huge role in boosting or undermining your self-confidence. It’s important to monitor what you are telling yourself about your abilities.
A steady diet of self-criticism may be coming from messages you received as a child. Parents, teachers, peers, those in authority have tremendous influence over how we talk to ourselves. Fortunately, we no longer have to believe their messages.
If the messages are negative and critical, stop listening to them, and more importantly, stop believing them. You may not even be aware that your playing these tapes in the background, so be vigilant. If you start feeling down on yourself as a writer, focus in on the messages in your head and talk back to them.
Research by psychologist Ethan Kross, University of Michigan, shows that changing from I to your name changes the impact of a statement. But there’s more. The nature of the self-talk becomes more supportive. It’s as if you are addressing someone else and trying to uplift them when, in fact, you are magically uplifting yourself.
Say it: I’m a good writer. [Your name] is a good writer.
Never Give Up, Never Surrender
Did you ever wonder how many times a great sculptor cracked a piece of marble or split it open by tapping it the wrong way?
Did you know that the Mona Lisa, one of the greatest paintings in history, was painted over several times until da Vinci got it as we see it today. There are several layers of paint and many versions as he reworked his masterpiece. We can all be grateful that he didn’t just toss down his brushes and give up.
There are hundreds of anecdotal stories about successful authors who persisted despite being rejected.
- William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times.
- William Saroyan received 7,000 rejection slips before selling his first short story.
- Agatha Christie had to wait four years for her first book to be published.
- Marcel Proust was rejected so much he decided to pay for publication himself.
- Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen received 134 rejections for Chicken Soup for the Soul.
- John Grisham’s A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 publishers.
When you believe you’re a good writer, and you have persistence and perseverance, you will find the courage to stay with it. Professor Angela Duckworth called this quality “grit.”
“Excellence sometimes seems like the result of natural talent. But no matter how gifted you are — no matter how easily you climb up the learning curve — you do need to do that climbing. There are no shortcuts. Grit predicts accomplishing challenging goals of personal significance.”
It helps if you keep a record of your writing. When I was a new freelancer, I kept a copy of every article and short story I wrote — published or not.
Periodically, I would go over what I had written, evaluate it, and edit it. I did this for a very long time. Writing new content, reviewing and revising old content, repeating the process. Taking classes, reading, learning, honing.
My body of work grew and improved. I was proud of each piece because it was my best.
It was good.
Then one day, that first acceptance came in the mail. And another. And I’ve never stopped. Writing became my career and livelihood.
Rejection is just someone’s opinion. Even when it’s a lot of someones, take what you can learn, keep improving where you can, and never surrender.
You’re a good writer, and you’re becoming an even better one, word-by-word.
Now, say it with your name: [Your name] is a good writer, and [your name] is becoming an even better one, word-by-word.
“People say, ‘What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?’ I say, they don’t really need advice, they know they want to be writers, and they’re gonna do it. Those people who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.” R.L. Stine